Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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Steven Posch

Steven Posch

Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Who Do You Swear By?

Just before the last presidential inauguration, a petition made the rounds requesting that language referring to “God” be dropped from the presidential oath.

Me, I didn't sign it.

I think it's right and good that those entering public office should swear by the gods that they honor. It's a time-honored old pagan tradition.

But to each, his own gods. When the time comes—hasten, O hasten, the day—that it's a pagan taking that presidential oath, I want to hear those pagan gods called to witness.

Then I'll die happy.

Who among your gods witnesses oaths? Who would you swear by, if you were taking the oath of office tomorrow?

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
A 1st-Century BCE Gold Cernunnos?

The Horned God is hot right now.

So call me a skeptic if you like, but I'm sorry: some things are just a little too convenient. How do you say "Too good to be true" in Witch?

An item that turned up on E-bay some while back was identified by the seller as a 1st century BCE golden La Tène phalera (harness decoration) depicting the god Cernunnos. Unprovenanced, supposedly from a private collection, it was priced at $7400.

Sorry, I'm not convinced. How convenient that a piece of art—previously, so far as I can tell, unknown to any art historian—depicting this god and none other (arguably the most identifiable god in Keltic mythology) should just happen to turn up in a "private collection."

If genuine, it's a pretty significant artifact, of intense interest to scholarship. If not...well.

The supposed phalera depicts the god in bust, with raised arms and branching (and intertwining) antlers. In his hands the god holds two items identified by the seller as torques, but which look more like curvilinear swastikas. If what he's wearing around his neck is supposed to be a torque, it doesn't resemble any other torque that I've ever seen in Keltic art.

And there's something wrong with those antlers, with their wavy tines on both sides of the beam. Image-search "Deer in Keltic art" and see if you can turn up anything like them.

More than anything else, the piece looks like the famous Gundestrup Antlered re-rendered in the form of the god-busts on the same cauldron, made by an artist not quite fluent in Keltic style. It's an interesting coincidence that, of all the "Cernunnoi" known from Keltic antiquity, only this one and the Gundestrup god are unbearded.

Art forgery is a profitable business. Within months of the initial excavations at Knossos, Minoan fakes were readily available on the European art market. Demand was high, and money good.

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  • Mab Nahash
    Mab Nahash says #
    The biggest giveaway is the squashed nose and right side of the face. Clearly that's an attempt to render the battered look of the

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Which Way to Hell?

Which way to Hell?

For some, the Land of the Dead is a place of fire, but here in the North we know better.

It's ice all the way.

Which way lies Hell? Norðr ok níðr, says Snorri: “To the north and down.” "North and nether," one might say.

Oh, she's beautiful but deadly, Winter. Whether she comes as screeching black hag or ice-blue maiden, her embrace withers and kills.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    You've shot to the heart, Mab, the very heart of pagan spirituality. Danger and reverence are close kin. A safe "nature" is a fals
  • Mab Nahash
    Mab Nahash says #
    I wonder how much of the sacrality of that feeling of snow stillness springs from the potential danger? I'm in Savannah, GA, and t

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Reinventing the Wheel

If the orientation of the monuments that they left behind is anything to go by, the peoples of megalithic Britain observed both quarters (sunsteads and evendays) and cross-quarters (Samhain, Imbolc, etc.).

Just like we do.

Different peoples, different ways. As they've come down to us, the cross-quarters are largely a phenomenon of Keltic cultures, the quarters Germanic; hence the names by which they're generally called.

For this reason, some purists have decided to restrict themselves to observance only of quarters or cross-quarters. Well, everyone gets to make his or her own call. My own position is that purism is its own punishment.

According to maverick historian Stephen J. Yeates, the Anglo-Saxon tribe known as the Hwicce—the original Tribe of Witches—settled in the territory of the Keltic people known as the Dobunni, and both archaeology and genetics suggest that there's strong continuity between the two peoples, both demographically and culturally.

In other words, we would expect the tribe of Witches to be (culturally) a Kelto-Germanic amalgam.

Which, of course, is exactly what we are.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
13 o' Clock

 Thirteenth Night,

when time runs backwards,

and the world whirls giddily widdershins.

Happy Feast of Fools!

 

Htrae eht nopu tuo deruop si evol ym dna,

Gnivil lla fo Rehtom eht ma I, dloheb rof,

ecifircas ni thgua dnamed I od ron.

Erofeb enog evah ohw esoht htiw noinuer dna,

modeerf, ecaep, htaed dnoyeb dna;

lanrete tirips eht fo egdelwonk evig I, htrae nopu....

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Ass's Ears

 'Tis a fine, foolish thing to wear a crown.

(Proverb of New Crete)

 

Sometimes Old Hornie wears an ass's ears.

Tomorrow is Thirteenth Night, the last of Yule, when the Merry Monarch of Misrule holds sway.

It's a short reign, but a merry one.

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And This Year's 'Best Yule Card' Award Goes to....

Consider the common Yule card.

It generally comes in one of three varieties.

1. Merry  Christmas  Yule. Out with the old, in with the new. Call it recycling.

2. Happy Holidays. Generic card. Yule, Christmas, Hanuka, Ramadan, Mother's Day....

3. Blesséd Yule. Oh-so pious-y pagan: pastels, pentagrams, and Horned Gods straight off the cover of a romance novel.

3a. All Hail Misrule! A specifically Old Craft sub-genre of Type 3, tending to feature woodcut-style graphics. Often features goats. 

And this year's 'Best Yule Card' Award goes to....

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